To celebrate its publication today here's a blog post from Elys Dolan on the making of Weasels.
Finally, today is the
day, the Weasels are here! I’m thrilled that my first picturebook, Weasels, is published and I couldn’t be
happier that I’m bringing the heady combination of woodland creatures and megalomania
to the world of picturebooks.
Weasels came about as part of my final masters project when doing the MA in
Children’s Book Illustration at the Cambridge Scholl of Art. In 2010, over the
summer holidays, my class decided to do an alphabet book together in which each
person would illustrate one letter. I got W, which is a terrible letter, and I
didn’t have a clue what I was going to do with it. I spent most of the summer
wishing I’d got T or S or even a nice versatile vowel. At the last minute and
after a lot of faffing I came up with ‘W is for Weasels Plotting World
Domination’, which lead to produce the image below for the alphabet book.
That pretty much set
up the whole book for me. When we resumed the course after the summer I decide
to develop this concept into a book for my final masters project and that became Weasels. You can see how that very
first image isn’t too dissimilar to the map room spread from the final book
Obviously a few things
have had to change. For instance the atmosphere is much darker in the original
and there a quite a lot of the Weasels are smoking (to echo the 1960s Bond films
that inspired the image) but apparently that isn’t really the done thing in
children’s books. The general retro feel and level of detail has endured though.
When it came to doing
the artwork for Weasels I started by doing a large pencil rough of each spread
like the one shown below.
I’d then take that
sketch and duplicate it using a lightbox and coloured pens to create an outline.
Using the pen outline
and the lightbox I’d then create the tone using inks.
Finally I’d scan the
line and the ink tone into the computer and layer them in Photoshop. This is
what gives the images that slight misregistration that echoes printmaking.
These days practice has made me more accurate at matching up my tone and line
so that they don’t misregister but I’ve become so fond of that look I find myself
nudging the layers around to try to recreate it.
One of the things I
really enjoyed about writing Weasels was including all the little asides and
ongoing jokes that appear through what the individual Weasels are saying. If I
had to pick a favourite quote I think it would be ‘Without this drill I am
nothing’ from the Laboratory spread below.
Just over a year ago Weasels was picked by the fabulous
people at Nosy Crow who helped me to refine it ready to be released upon the
world. To be honest we didn’t change it much at all and I was thrilled they
wanted to keep the large 30x30cm format. There’s a blog post on the Nosy Crow site here that gives an interesting insight into some of the differences
between the original and published versions.
Weasels is out as of
today so if you’d like a copy of you own you can get it here, here, here and at
many other wonderful bookshops.